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Baristas at Park City-area Starbucks petition for union

21 Starbucks stores from 14 states, including the Kimball Junction location above, announced petitions for union elections Feb. 20 in the largest single-day filing since Starbucks Workers United began in 2021.
Connor Thomas
21 Starbucks stores from 14 states, including the Kimball Junction location above, announced petitions for union elections Feb. 20 in the largest single-day filing since Starbucks Workers United began in 2021.

The Kimball Junction Starbucks is now Utah’s sixth store to file for unionization.

As part of the largest single-day filing since Starbucks employees began unionizing in 2021, workers at Kimball Junction’s location have petitioned to join Starbucks Workers United.

The baristas at the location on Newpark Boulevard, next to World Market, were sporting union pins Feb. 20—their first day going public with the effort.

They’ve joined 20 Starbucks stores in 13 states to demand better working conditions. They say they see common problems around the country, such as inconsistent hours and short staffing.

Employee of 4 years Kaylee OGrady, a shift supervisor at Kimball Junction, told KPCW their store hit record sales last year, despite the staffing challenges.

“People don't want to work in that [environment],” they said. “We have a hard time holding on to people.”

Putting more work in the hands of fewer people, employees wrote in an open letter to CEO Laxman Narasimhan, shows “a habit of prioritizing sales and profits over partner safety.”

OGrady said the Kimball store has about 15 employees, many of whom can’t or don’t want to quit.

“I like my job. I love my coworkers. One of my managers is amazing,” OGrady said. “And we don't want to leave because of the pay or because of the working conditions. We just want to improve them.”

They told KPCW the majority of Kimball Junction employees signed union cards, except for a couple new hires. That met the 30% threshold required to petition the National Labor Relations Board for a formal election.

Next, the NLRB will direct Starbucks to hold union elections at the 21 newly-filed stores, where employees will officially decide whether to unionize.

Almost 400 Starbucks stores in 42 states and the District of Columbia have voted to unionize since 2021. There are about 9,000 corporate-owned stores nationwide.

OGrady’s store is the sixth in Utah to petition for a union. The rest are along the Wasatch Front; four of them officially voted to join Starbucks Workers United.

“When you have the collective voice of multiple people—just about 10,000 people—coming to a company and demanding better working conditions, they are being put in a position where they have to listen to us,” OGrady said. “It's inspiring.”

Courts have ruled Starbucks engaged in union-busting since the wave of filings began in 2021. That includes everything from firing pro-union workers to illegally withholding raises from union employees without negotiating with the union.

Starbucks Workers United says federal judges have ruled the company has committed over 400 violations of national labor law.

No such violation has been found at Kimball Junction, but a flier did appear in the Starbucks’ backroom once word got out about unionization.

OGrady said the flier claimed employees could get paid less if they joined a union.

In theory that’s true—but only if the union negotiates lower wages with the company. In reality, the numbers show union members in the United States make more than their non-union counterparts.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2023, unionized full-time workers made 16% more than those not in a union. Unionized women, Black and Latino workers make 19%, 22% and 32% more, respectively.

For OGrady, it goes back to the idea that there’s strength in numbers and in collective bargaining.

Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull said in a statement the company's goal is for elections to be fair and for everyone's voices to be heard.

"We know a core piece of a positive partner experience is consistent scheduling and predictable hours, and we’ve continued to work to build weekly schedules that reflect our partners’ preferred hours and support expected customer demand," Trull said.

He said the company has improved average hours, per employee, by 5% since 2020. The company said it's increased the total hourly wages across all U.S. employees by nearly 50% since FY2020.

Updated: February 20, 2024 at 4:48 PM MST
This story was updated with a statement from a Starbucks spokesperson on the 21 filings.